‘Return of the Hero’ exhibits satisfying, unexpected ending

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Having a story end with all its problems solved isn’t always the best ending.

“Return of the Hero” is a historical comedy film set in France in 1809, as recently shown on campus as part of a French film series. The story follows Captain Neuville, who proposed to Pauline and is set to marry her until he is called away to war. He promises to write to her, however, never ends up doing so. 

Disheartened to see her sister’s health and spirits deteriorate from her sorrow, Elizabeth begins to write letters on Neuville’s behalf to Pauline and eventually kills him off to allow her sister to move on in pursuit of happiness. Things then soon end up going south for Elizabeth when Captain Neuville returns home where vast amounts of antics and chaos ensue.

This film is the type that doesn’t take the route one expects with a comedy. Instead of sugar coating certain topics like war and sex or trying to remain elegant with the aristocracy displayed in the plot with the high class characters given, the story actually follows a more hilarious and raunchy approach. It shows the upper class as flawed human beings instead of the untouchable, shiny idols commonly associated with the rich.

Captain Neuville is painted as a handsome French bachelor preparing to fight valiantly in the war, but audiences soon learn that the captain is anything but valiant. He’s a coward who’s actually quite selfish and ends up deserting his post in the war. Then you have characters like Elizabeth, who’s the daughter of a higher end family. You’d expect her to be classy and poised, however, she winds up being rather childish and sometimes too stubborn for her own good.

Let’s also not forget Elizabeth’s younger sister Pauline, who seems pretty and timid on the outside, but is rather kinky and demanding on the inside. It’s this concept of the rich being exhibited as anything but perfect that really left its mark on the film. Being able to see these prissy aristocrats as the humans they are was how you were able to fall into the story.

The veering from the expected conclusion of the film was what really stood out, though. Throughout the story the audience witnesses the antics between characters Neuville and Elizabeth. It seems like the hate-to-love trope commonly shown in comedies exhibiting male and female leads. As the plot advances we see Elizabeth clearly coming to care for Neuville despite his womanizing tendencies and countless affairs, and her determination of not getting married.

As the movie starts drawing to a close the audience can’t help but start to question if the two are really going to end up together despite their differences and weird chemistry. The movie thankfully doesn’t head towards the expected ending, where the two fall in love and all their problems are solved. 

No, “Return of the Hero” doesn’t paint us a picture perfect ending. It’s refreshing to see the male and female protagonists not being forced together in the end. It’s one of those films where there’s a vast amount of lies and occurrences that shouldn’t be so easily forgiven, yet the problem of so many comedies is the fact that conflicts are too easily resolved.

Not in “Return of the Hero.” The admirable aspect of this movie is the direction it decided to take towards the unexpected and most rational of endings. It’s that refreshing aspect and the showing of the flaws in even the rich that really made this comedy stand out.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)